Looking for a reason to not take a team far in the tournament?  You want to make unique picks without some of the higher seeds.  You’re not alone there. But hey, if you look hard enough, there are plenty of reasons to shy away from even the biggest powers in college basketball… from injuries, to offensive woes, defensive woes, free throw shooting, and even single points of failure. Take the following examples, which in the end could eventually assist you in throwing the finishing touches on the masterpiece that is your 2009 bracket.

Reasons To Avoid Some of the Higher Seeds in the Tournament*

Free Throw Shooting

Think about it, March Madness is chock full of close games. When down to the wire, it’s often the players with ice in their veins from the charity stripe that win the tight games. Last year, there were teams like Clemson and Memphis with atrocious numbers from the line. For Clemson, it hit them and they were out quick. For Memphis, their talent put them in the title game, but in the end, we all know it was the free throw shooting that cost them a National Title. As for this year, take the following two teams, and how they rank in the country…

(1) Louisville – 64.3% FT – Rank: 298th
(3) Syracuse – 63.9% FT – Rank: 303rd

Offensive Rebounds Per Game

Hey, what’s better than a second chance? Well, besides making due with your first chance, but still, often teams can earn those big victories by getting a high total of second chance points. Let’s look at a few higher seeds that have struggled to get offensive boards this season…

(5) Purdue – 9.4 per game – Rank: 303rd
(8) BYU – 9.2 per game – Rank: 308th
(6) Arizona State – 8.4 per game – Rank: 324th
(8) Ohio State – 8.1 per game – Rank: 328th

Assist Turnover Ratio

More often than not, it’s efficiency and a quality team effort that can vault a team deep into the tournament. Specifically, there’s assist turnover ratio, where a team can dish out the rock frequently, while not turning the ball over. Take the following teams with higher seeds, who have struggled in this category throughout the year…

(4) Washington – 0.88 ATR – Rank: 212th
(4) Wake Forest – 0.83 ATR – Rank: 251st
(5) Florida State – 0.78 ATR – Rank: 278th

Fouls Per Game

Plain and simple, you can’t win a game without your starting lineup on the court. A team needs to have discipline to avoid silly fouls, while also keeping an opponent off the line and away from the double bonus. In particular, these teams have committed a large number of fouls throughout the season…

(8) Oklahoma State – 21.3 per game – Rank: 15th
(3) Missouri – 19.9 per game – Rank: 61st
(4) Washington – 19.5 per game – Rank: 83rd

Three Point Shooting

This one has two parts. First, for the teams that struggle from behind the arc, and therefore when facing a physical opponent, can struggle to keep a team honest by mixing it up from deep. Then there are the teams that live and die by the three, and when an off night arrives, this team is likely doomed for elimination. Take the following examples of each…

Struggles from Behind the Arc
(2) Memphis – 32% – Rank: 261st
(4) Wake Forest – 31.8% – Rank: 266th

Live and Die by the 3

(7) California – 43.4% – Rank: 1st
(4) Xavier – 39.9% – Rank: 13th
(6) UCLA – 39.8% – Rank: 14th
(4) Gonzaga – 39.4% – Rank: 19th


It’s tough to gauge the severity of an injury.  More often than not, a school will downplay a certain injury to confuse and complicate an opponent’s game plan. Still, in some cases, it’s an injury to a star player that in the end can derail a team that once had high hopes of a National Title entering the tournament. Take the following examples…

(1) North Carolina – Ty Lawson
Rested for a few games in the ACC tournament, it’s said that Lawson should play, but who knows how bad the toe injury will be. One thing’s for certain, the ‘Heels hope that “this little piggy will go to the basket”.

(1) Pittsburgh – Levance Fields
Fields has been nursing groin and back injuries, both of which can linger on and cause problems, but the hope in Pittsburgh is that he’ll be fine.

(1) Connecticut – Jerome Dyson
UConn’s second leading scorer, Dyson’s season ended after being diagnosed with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. The Huskies have depth and talent, but Dyson definitely has been missed.

(5) Illinois – Chester Frazier
Likely the feistiest defender for the Illini, Frasier reportedly will be very limited in the opening round game against #12 seed Western Kentucky.

(6) Marquette – Dominic James
This one hurt for the Golden Eagles, as James ran the point, and was one of the team’s better players. Since he went down, Marquette clearly hasn’t been the same team.

Single Points of Failure

And last but not least, there are the higher seeds that have one player that puts up the majority of the scoring on offense. Upon meeting a tough defensive opponent that can shut this player down, it’s often difficult to find others to step up and put points on the board. In particular, the following teams and players come to mind…

(3) Kansas – Sherron Collins – 18.3 PPG
Sure, Cole Aldrich averages a double-double per game, but Collins is the heart and soul of this Jayhawks team.

(5) Florida State – Toney Douglas – 21.3 PPG

Outside of Douglas, no one else on the Florida State roster averages in double figures.

(6) Arizona State – James Harden – 20.8 PPG
Pendergraph does average over 14 a game, but the Sun Devils live and die by Harden.

* Stats courtesy of NCAA Division I website

Originally posted to KP’s Blog (via Fox Sports) on March 16, 2009

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